As Warner Bros. continues its slow-but-steady-but-really-quite-fast expansion of the DC cinematic universe, rumors have been swirling that Dwayne Johnson will star in an adaptation of Shazam, playing a character who is confusingly sometimes known as Captain Marvel, which is also the name of a character in the Marvel universe. (Yes, there have been lawsuits.) Johnson himself stoked those rumors last month, and today he apparently confirmed his involvement in the movie. However, according to The Associated Press, Johnson might not be playing the lead–the AP claims that he “has yet to decide” whether he’s playing the superhero or his greatest enemy, the supervillain Black Adam.
Warner Bros. isn’t currently commenting on the excess of casting rumors swirling around their Justice League megafranchise, and the AP story is a bit abbreviated, so let’s spin the wheel of Casting Rumor Fortune and try to answer a few simple questions here.
Is Warner Bros. actually making a Shazam movie?
Shazam’s hardly the most famous character in the DC stable. If we’re going off pure name recognition, it would make more sense for WB to develop movies focused on Wonder Woman, the Flash, or Aquaman, who is a very cool character, no you shut up. Then again, the fact that Green Lantern is slightly better known than Shazam certainly didn’t help the box office take of that Green Lantern movie that actually happened and wasn’t just a nightmare you had in summer 2011. At this early date, there are tantalizing hints that WB is developing adventurous properties like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s The Sandman and Guillermo Del Toro’s Justice League Dark. And Shazam is usually rendered as a fun character–purely theoretically, he could be the Iron Man of the series, a breath of fresh, colorful air in between Snyderized grit operas.
So is Dwayne Johnson actually going to play a role in Shazam?
The Artist Formerly Known As The Rock has been scooping up franchises for four years now. After joining the ascendant Fast & Furious series with 2011’s Fast Five, he Bryce Dallas Howard’d Brendan Fraser in Journey 2 and gave Channing Tatum the Bro-Hug of Death in GI Joe: Retaliation. That aggressive work ethic got him named the most successful movie star of 2013 by Forbes. He’s a franchise guy–and he’s probably a safe bet for Warner Bros., if they’re looking to cast an unfamiliar superhero with a familiar face.
Would Johnson actually play Black Adam?
Johnson gave his career a serious kickstart in Fast Five by playing sorta-nemesis Hobbs, but Hobbs wasn’t an out-and-out bad guy. Unless you count that time Johnson’s digital face grimaced on top of a scorpion body, he’s never really played a villain. And Black Adam is, like, a villain: a murderous immortal descended from the Pharaohs who spends a few thousand years imprisoned for his sins before emerging into the modern age. Although at times Adam has been presented as more of an antihero figure–a “good guy” with a fatal code, sort of like the Punisher wearing lightning-bolt pajamas–his most consistent portrayal is that of a power-mad dictator.
It seems more likely that Johnson would choose to play Shazam, a chipper and old-fashioned hero. Although Shazam looks a lot like Superman and shares most of his basic powers, the Shazam origin story is a neat twist: The hero is actually a young boy named Billy Batson, who transforms into an adult superhero body whenever he says the word “Shazam!” Boy-in-a-superhero’s-body seems like a savvy choice for Johnson. Then again, he was great in Fast Five, and he had a lot of fun exploring the dark side of a goofball character in last year’s Pain & Gain.
Or here’s an outside possibility: Given that Black Adam has the same powers as Shazam, and gets them from the same source, maybe Johnson is going to play Black Adam… and Shazam?
CONCLUSION: Johnson is probably talking to Warner Bros. about Shazam. He is probably going to play the hero. Nothing will be officially announced for at least two election cycles.